Charles Fried: mellow conservative


The ideological Fried is certainly on display in his new book, a short, breezily philosophical volume called “Modern Liberty and the Limits of Government” (a “very unbuttoned book,” Fried calls it, full of “free association”). In cataloging the “enemies of liberty,” for example, Fried lumps together Pol Pot, Egyptian pharaohs, and environmentalists who want to protect rare toads by restricting property use. . . But perhaps the most interesting thing about “Modern Liberty” is how many concessions Fried makes to the modern welfare state and its Democratic defenders. Despite a few sharp elbows, it’s a timely statement — given recent election results — of a certain strand of moderate Republicanism, which the national Republican Party has been accused of abandoning. “The great thing about Charles,” says Richard Fallon, a liberal constitutional scholar at Harvard who took part in a forum at the law school on “Modern Liberty” earlier this month, “is that he has always been willing to offend friends on both the right and left.”

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